Cannabis has a long history of medical, recreational and sacramental use in many parts of the world. The legislation that is in place (here in Northern Ireland and the UK), to regulate against misuse of drugs, is designed so that the Minister can make it lawful for persons to produce, cultivate, possess and supply controlled drugs using the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act’s legislative powers in sections 7, 22 and 31.
Failure (by the Minister) to exercise these powers, whilst at the same time excluding the users of more dangerous drugs than cannabis from the punishingly restrictive measures of the Act, creates a situation or circumstance whereby some people are treated less favourably than others on recreational grounds.
Whatever recreational activity we engage in, as human beings, in order to alter our thoughts, feelings and perceptions, can only appreciated courtesy of the biochemical activity inherent in our own brains and central nervous systems. So, taking drugs to alter our biochemistry must be assessed in the same scale of risk to ourselves or others as are all other recreational activities. Any less favourable treatment, that is not in proportion to a rationally based scale of harm is, by definition, recreational discrimination and this is unlawful by the legal protections given to Articles 1, 9 and 14 of the European Convention of Human Rights (and Fundamental Freedoms) by the Northern Ireland Act 1998 and the Human Rights Act 1998.
Moreover, recreational use of drugs is a matter consequential on the state of peoples’ health, and the Northern Ireland Minister of Health’s options of goverance, re the powers vested in him under sections 7, 22 and 31 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, are themselves governed by equality of health legislation in sections 2 and 13 of the Health and Social Care (Reform) Act (Northern Ireland) 2009.
Surely, on this basis, our Minister of Health has no option but to make, and the Northern Ireland Assembly has no option but to approve, a new Misuse of Drugs (Designation) (Amendment) Order (Northern Ireland) designating cannabis as a drug to which section 7(4) of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 does not apply and sections 7(1), 7(2) and 7(3) do apply as regards cannabis use.